Lawn care may not be rocket science, but it's still science.So if you want to have a great lawn, pay attention to what the researchers at Colorado State University and experienced professionals have to say about lawn care. Myths may abound, but science still rules.
Here are four things your lawn needs:
Get out a screwdriver and push it into the soil. If the ground is hard and resistant, you need to water. Drag out the hose, and give the grass a good soak. Allow water to soak down a good 3 inches into the soil. If it starts to run off or puddle, stop watering.
CSU turf scientists will tell you that grass roots develop in the spring and they need to be growing deep right now. If you just spritz the lawn frequently-instead of one good soak-you're almost doing more harm than good because you're not encouraging roots to grow deep. Water less often, water thoroughly and you'll have a healthier and more drought-tolerant lawn.
The only reason to apply fertilizer early is if you apply the "weed and feed" variety that controls germination of early-season weeds. According to the CSU Extension, applying a high-nitrogen fertilizer in April may cause grass to grow too fast, before roots are ready to support the lawn. This makes a lawn less tolerant of summer heat.
Also remember that if you use a mulching mower and aerate, the grass clippings and aeration plugs will be cut up and disbursed across the lawn by the mower. As that matter breaks down, it adds nutrients to the grass. This helps to reduce the amount of fertilizer while you reuse/recycle garden debris in the process. That's an easy and sustainable step.
Aerating an already-dry lawn now can dry it out even more. The soil needs to be moist to get optimum benefits of aerating. Wait until the sprinkler system is turned on and make sure the lawn has a good soak the day before aerating.
Remember the screwdriver test: if the ground is dry and hard, the screwdriver won't probe the ground. It's the same for the aerator tines. If the ground is hard, the tines can't penetrate the soil to pull out plugs that ideally, should be 3-4 inches long.
Turf scientists will tell you that aeration is a best practice for lawn health. It opens up the soil to allow oxygen, water and nutrients into the root zone where they are most needed.
If you have the standard Kentucky bluegrass lawn, you need to know that by nature, it wants to be at about 3-4 inches tall. So set the mower height at 3 inches and never cut off more than 1/3 of the total height of the grass. Why not? Because cutting off more stresses the grass.
Did you know that grass is self-shading? Keeping grass at optimal length allows the grass blades to shade the root zone and that helps to retain moisture so you can water it less.
Courtesy Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company based in Silverthorne that is a member. You may contact them at (970) 468-0340.